Lincecum deal ominous start to offseason for Phillies
The consolation is the Phillies aren't the only major league team prone to overpaying their stars.
Still, the Giants' decision to hand Tim Lincecum a two-year, $35 million contract has other, more ominous, implications for Ruben Amaro Jr. and Co. as they prepare for the free agent signing period.
In short, it is probably going to cost a lot of money to upgrade the Phillies rotation, and there is no guarantee that a team will get a lot of pitcher in return.
Maybe the Giants saw something in Linecum this last season to suggest that he will return to his pre-2012 form, when he won two NL Cy Young Awards and a World Series.
But if he ends up giving them production similar to the last two seasons — a 4.76 ERA, 72 ERA+, 2.5 WAR, and fewer than six innings per start — it will amount to a drastic overpay.
None of this comes a surprise.
Remember, Joe Blanton signed a two-year, $15 million deal last offseason.
Teams are flush with cash and payroll space right now, which is where the Phillies were from 2008 through 2011. They still have the cash, but they do not have the ability to expand their payroll like other teams do, at least not if they want to remain below the $189 million luxury tax barrier.
Lincecum was, theoretically, one of the value plays on the market. A team unwilling to pay a premium for a top of the market hurler could target a guy looking for a bounceback season, acquiring risk in exchange for salary.
But unless the Phillies are willing to take a Yankee-esque approach to the offseason, I don't think they can afford to pay $17 million per year for that kind of risk. Not that they would have targeted Lincecum, but if a pitcher in his mold is going to cost well into the double digits in average annual value, the Phillies' situation might be even more dire than we expected.